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Forever - The Pugilist Break - Review

Forever, “The Pugilist Break,” was written by Phil Klemmer and directed by John Kretchmer. Among Klemmer’s other credits are The Tomorrow People, Chuck, and Veronica Mars on which Kretchmer collaborated for 2 episodes. Kretchmer’s other directing credits include White Collar, Army Wives, and Burn Notice. Once again this episode both utilizes Henry’s (Ioan Gruffudd) past to help solve the case and to underscore the larger theme of the episode.

I really love how Henry is being pulled into the present. This is the first episode in which we haven’t seen him obsessing in his lab about trying to find a way to die. Our first shot of him is actually enjoying a cup of coffee. The episode ends with him inviting Jo (Alana De La Garza) to dinner, actually letting her into their lives. It makes sense that Abe (Judd Hirsch) and Henry would have a story about how they know each other, but there was a moment when she asked – and they get so flustered – that I was worried. However, having such a well-rehearsed answer might raise the suspicions of a police detective…

There are nice touches to show how Henry really is caught between past and present. He resists letting go of his possessions – like his credenza and his medical bag – and he also resists stepping fully into the present by having a cell phone. Abe is the voice of wisdom – even if he’s only 70! – when he says the store doesn’t have much of a future if Henry won’t give up his past. Abe is clearly referring to Henry’s own future. I also appreciate the careful way in which he is dressed. His tie is perhaps just a little too thin, he uses a tie clip, the sweater vest isn’t a hot item, and he wears a watch chain. Of course, with his ever present scarf, he looks marvelous, but also a touch out of step.

The basic premise of the episode is the more things change, the more they stay the same. The rich get richer and the poor remain at their mercy. We see Henry in the past fighting to save the life of a poor boy whose family has died in the tenement housing of New York. That same housing is still used for the underprivileged with the rich land developers – Delco (James Colby) – taking advantage of the community to line their own pockets. In the past, we see Henry fight for the orphan boy (Nicky Torchia) that he finds and in the present, he fights to name Raul (Juan-Pablo Veza) when Hanson (Donnie Keshawarz) wants to simply dismiss him as ADJ (Another Dead Junkie). The immigrants in the past had no name and no value and there’s a nice parallel of Henry being unable to save the boy in the past, but saving the boy in the present and finding some justice for the neighborhood. Proving that the past isn’t destined to repeat itself.

While Henry has a hard time getting the rest of the team to fight as hard to find Raul’s killer at first, he soon manages to convince them that there is more to the story. It’s clear that he is being accepted more onto the team. Lt. Reece (Lorraine Toussaint) makes a point of telling Henry that he will have to cross his T’s and dot his I’s if he wants to make a case against Delco stick. Jo also invites him on his first stake out. It was nice to see Hanson get a bit more to do in the episode, but the character still feels a bit superfluous – for partners, Jo and Hanson don’t work together much!

We get a bit more background on Jo in this episode, learning that she grew up in a tough neighborhood. I loved Henry guessing that her dad was also a cop only to learn that in fact, he was a crook, teaching Jo how to pick locks for one thing. I liked that they didn’t go strictly with the typical storyline, but I still feel like we aren’t getting enough of Jo to really feel attached to her the way we feel connected to Henry. I don’t feel like that’s a problem with De La Garza’s acting, which has been solid, but rather with the storylines so far. I do really enjoy every time she refers to her superior knowledge of some history of the city – and we immediately see how much more experience Henry has.

We learn a little more about Henry and not only through his flashbacks. We learn that he gave up opiates – which mean he experimented with them at some point. I loved him tasking poor Lucas (Joel David Moore) with capturing the rats and listing all the diseases he could catch. I also loved that Lucas performed surgery on one – and Henry’s enthusiastic reaction to it! The show nicely integrates some terrifically funny moments. I loved the real estate agent blaming the smell of the dead body on a new artisan cheese shop!

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the few things that I did find a bit annoying about the episode. First off, if Henry had to buy heroine to get the toxicology information sooner because Raul wasn’t a priority, how did they get a toxicology report on a rat pushed through in a day? While I really like them having Jo be the one to know how to pick the lock and to break the door down, it would not be that easy to break into a store in New York. Bars on the window but one slam into the door breaks one puny lock on the door jam? And no alarm?

However, I did like that they don’t get a perfect ending to the story. Sergio (Eden Marryshow) is killed by a bus before he can be brought to justice, and essentially Delcro may go to jail, but not for murder. We don’t suddenly have a magically perfect system, but the future is also not quite so bleak as Henry surmises at the beginning of the episode. They also didn’t go the obvious route of having Fabian (Cornelius Smith Jr) be the bad guy. I also did really like that we get clues right at the beginning of the episode – we see Alejandro (Caleb McLaughlin) at the beginning of the episode with the tennis ball and we see the marks on the wall.

There are some really nice transitions from present to past in this episode. I particularly liked how Henry saw the past in the shadows of his flashlight before we are taken back in time. I also like that they change the filter so the colors are slightly muted to signal the transition. I am very glad that Henry got rid of the mustache, however!

        Forever is still one of my favorite new shows. Gruffudd is eminently watchable, and the show does a creditable job of weaving in a message without punching us in the face with it. While the show hasn’t gotten a full season pick up just yet, it did have more episodes ordered. Are you sticking with it? What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

About the Author - Lisa Macklem
I do interviews and write articles for the site in addition to reviewing a number of shows, including Supernatural, Arrow, Agents of Shield, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Forever, Defiance, Bitten, Glee, and a few others! Highlights of this past year include covering San Diego Comic Con as press and a set visit to Bitten. When I'm not writing about television shows, I'm often writing about entertainment and media law in my capacity as a legal scholar. I also work in theatre when the opportunity arises. I'm an avid runner and rider, currently training in dressage.